By Mark Jenkins
November 8, 2013
The title of Spain Arts & Culture’s latest photographic survey is “Vaiven,” Spanish for “swing” or “oscillation.” That refers to motion between the United States, where most of the images were made, and Spain, where the photographers are rooted. The exhibition, at the former residence of the ambassadors of Spain, shows New York and Chicago, not Madrid and Barcelona.
Two of the six participants grew up in North America. Madrid-born Marylander Ana Hayes-Pérez encapsulates her transatlantic life with small, deadpan photos of the stuff — food, toys, souvenirs — her family carried across the ocean. Montreal-born Xavier Nuez lives in Chicago and scouts American cities for solitude and decrepitude. He’s drawn to places that are dark and empty yet colorful, like a Miami stadium abandoned to graffiti after it was damaged by Hurricane Andrew.
Carla Tramullas and Monica Lek came to the United States as adults, settling in New York. Lek’s sunny candids depict a polyglot metropolis of Hasidic Jews and Chinatown restaurants, cotton candy and a subway rider who wears a clown nose. Tramullas’s work is more abstract and more personal, so that close-ups and panoramas feel equally intimate.
Javier Corso and Raúl Urbina still live in Spain, which is not the only way they’re different from the others. Corso used the U.S. Army as an implicit model, but his pictures are of Spanish troops, in compositions and situations both formal and informal. He shows soldiers on maneuvers but also one lying on her bunk, above a lineup of decidedly military shoes. Shot in Chicago, Urbina’s photos are the only ones in black and white. The Madrid lensman likes shadows, angles and recurring parallel lines, whether railroad tracks or slats of a window blind. In a contemporary city, Urbina finds vignettes that evoke the U.S.A. that Hollywood showed the world in the pre-Technicolor age.
On view through Nov. 24 at the Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain, 2801 16th St. NW; 202-728-2334, www.spainculture.us